If you pay attention to political discourse, you’re aware that a common refrain of the American left is to emphasis just how much we aren’t like other developed first world nations. Namely, we don’t have universal healthcare, we lack sufficient gun control policies, and our criminal justice system is overly harsh. However, this line of reasoning is purely opportunistic on the part of the American left. They do not want our country to become like other first world nations overall. Rather, they only bring up this nation state version of an argumentum ad populum when it best suites their goals.
Take a few examples, starting with voter ID laws. In America, the discussion over voter ID laws boils down to this – conservatives argue it will reduce voter fraud, even voter fraud we can’t be sure is occurring since we likely only catch a small proportion of the people who commit voter fraud in the first place. The left retorts by calling conservatives racists. Why? Because the left argues that certain groups of people, specifically minorities, won’t be able to get access to IDs. Therefore, the intentions of conservatives arguing for the laws are to stop blacks and Hispanics from voting so it will be easier for Republicans to win elections.
This line of reasoning is convoluted for many reasons, but rather than run down the absurdity of calling people who expect others, regardless of their race, to be able to get an acceptable form of identification racists, let’s look at what other nations do in this area of public policy. In Canada, you can do one of three things to vote: show a photo ID like a driver’s license, two forms of paperwork with your current address on it, or present two pieces of ID with your name on it and take an oath that your address is what you say it is. In Sweden, if the voting clerk does not know you personally, s/he must verify your identity before you can vote. In Ireland, a clerk may ask you to prove your identity with one of five acceptable forms of identification In Switzerland, the government upends the whole debate and issues registration cards to all citizens for the express purpose of voting.
Look around the world and you will see a wide variety of different voting laws, from strict to loose. However, those nations with stricter laws than the U.S. are rarely, if ever, accused of a racist plot to keep their minority populations from participating in democracy.
When it comes to immigration laws things get very interesting. As Politifact reported, the U.S. is one of only 33 nations in the world that offer birthright citizenship, the policy at the heart of the whole “anchor baby” argument. Nations that don’t do so include the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, Denmark, and almost every other first world country. Restricting birthright citizenship is something conservatives have been arguing for for years, and was even part of the 1996 Republican Party Platform. Does it bother the left that social democracies and most Republicans are on the same side of a major social issue? Is it really so extreme to hold this position on immigration?
Well what about abortion? Perhaps most surprisingly, America has a very liberal abortion regime in place relative to other countries. In Germany, Greece, Poland and more, abortion is limited to 12 weeks unless the life of the mother is at risk later on in the pregnancy. Sweden limits it to 18 weeks, and the U.K. requires women to get certification from two separate physicians to receive an abortion.
Just recently, Republicans tried to pass a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) stated of the legislation, “It’s legislation that would allow America to join the ranks of most civilized nations when it comes to protecting the most innocent and vulnerable of life.” Harry Reid, the Democrat Leader said McConnell was “pandering to the extremists in his party”. Google what a 20 week old fetus looks like so you can see its development, and you tell me who extremist is in this situation.
The reality of other nations holding so called ‘conservative’ views is true in many more areas, from energy policy to corporate taxation. But don’t expect this to sway those with a preconceived notion of the rest of the world.